Please Share the Caprese!

One of my favorite summer flavors is sweet basil. Every year I explore new ways to freshen up a dish with this sweet wonder to enjoy with my family, or friends, or both!

20150718_142439-1As you can see, my basil patch is just starting to shoot up. It has been an unusually wet summer in Kansas. The excessive rainfall and flooding has wreaked havoc on my garden! I am delighted to see the basil has survived and is starting to thrive.

Just in time, actually! I thinned the young plants recently and prepared a delicious caprese pasta salad to share with my Monday night ladies’ Bible study group. Several of the ladies asked for the recipe, so here it is!

pasta_120811I started with 2 cups of cooked pasta. My children always loved the bow tie variety when they were littles, so I kept with that nostalgia. After draining the excess water, I coated the pasta lightly with olive oil and stirred in a bit of salt and pepper. Next, I prepared a creamy dressing, stirring together about 3/4 cup of mayonnaise and a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar. You can use more or less of either ingredient to your own liking. I then stirred the dressing and pasta together and let it chill in the fridge while I prepared the key caprese ingredients: basil, tomatoes, and mozzarella!

sun-dried_121351I love to use fresh cherry tomato halves for this salad, but my tomato plants have struggled through this soggy Kansas season. I opted instead for a handful of tangy sun-dried tomatoes. These are handy to have in your pantry for quick substitutes. I just slivered them up and they were ready to go in the dish!

basil_120533I picked a handful of young basil to thin out my row in the garden and allow the other plants to grow bigger. These young plants are still packed with great flavor and I never let them go to waste. I tore the leaves into smaller pieces for this salad.

mozz_121933Of course fresh and creamy mozzarella is a must! I like to chop mine a little chunky. I folded the tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella into the pasta salad and packed it for the church potluck.

The flavors had plenty of time to blend as we greeted each other with fellowship and prayer. This caprese pasta salad tasted delicious alongside other summer favorites, but could also stand alone as a quick and easy summer meal. Enjoy!

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Enjoy the Sparkles

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I like snow because it sparkles.

This is what a second grader recently wrote about the snow during this latest blast of arctic air that chilled almost the entire United States.

Simple. I like it. It sparkles.

I used to think like that, too, a long time ago. As a young child I can remember rough winters on the farm, snowed in for days at a time.

No furnace. Yes! We get to camp in front of the fireplace.

No lights. Awesome! We get to light those special candles Momma keeps in the cupboard for times like this.

No electricity. Cool! We’ll read and play games and use our imaginations together to pass the time.

Funny how time changes us over the years. The prospects of snow once sparkling with ideas of snow forts, snow angels, and snow cones are replaced with the heavier burdens of snow removal, snow make-up days, and snow repairs.

But what if we remember to think like that child of long ago. It’s really just perspective, isn’t it?

Daunting driveway. Yes! I get a free workout today.

Lost days at work. Awesome! I can work on that project I’ve wanted to finish at home.

Power out. Yay! We can have conversation aside from all things plugged in.

The burdens of winter will pass, as spring has proven to come year after year.

In the meantime enjoy like a child. Enjoy time. Enjoy people. Enjoy snow. After all, it sparkles.

The View is Free

Highway 56 is my familiar road home. I’ve traveled it many occasions. I ‘ve grown used to the traffic, the landscape, and the rural acquaintances. However, on my latest trip back, something magnificent caught my attention. Magnificent in a free and simple kind of way. Hay bales.

That’s right. The simple beauty of hay bales.

At EXIT 147 take a left. Travel through historic Council Grove heading west. Pass the goats. Pass the ostrich. Look for the “stop tree” (my young babes named this recognizable tree so many years ago). Turn left. First right. Home.

Ohhh… but not this last visit!

At EXIT 147 take a left. Travel through historic Council Grove heading west. Pass the goats. Pass the ostrich. Look for the … oh my!

There, just beyond the “stop tree”, this beautiful display of hay bales.

I had to stop the car. I had to get out. I had to breathe in. And breathe out. This is splendor for all to see.

It is simple, yet complex. It is breathtaking, yet life giving. It represents labor, yet rests as leisure.

It stunned me. It stopped me. It moved me.

Oh and believe me, I have seen a few hay bales growing up!

Why THIS reaction?

Because it matters.

My little ones, back in the day, knew to look for the “stop tree”. They knew how to look out the window. They didn’t bypass the beauty for the distractions inside the car.

Anticipation, expectation, and hopefulness are forward thoughts.

This is what I have taught my own children. This is what I want for every child. This is future.

Are you looking ahead? Are you teaching your children to look out the window?

Are you stopping to take a look at the beautiful? Breathing in? Breathing out?

It’s a free view. And it is right outside your window.Image

Growing Up in Kansas

Watching pasture fires burn. Cooling watermelon in the creek. Hanging laundry on the line.  Sledding down hills on a shovel. These were seasons of my childhood. These were my Kansas seasons.

For me, growing up was defined by these seasons. Seasons declared the day, our work, and our play. Seasons of Kansas brought expectation, as well as joy and delight.

Here are just a few more childhood memories that have found their way into my “favorites file”:

  • Planting the garden, shucking the corn, and collecting the eggs.
  • Bottle-feeding the calves, milking the cows, and skimming cream off of the milk.
  • Swimming in the horse tank, wading in the creek, fishing in the pond.
  • Collecting pinecones, playing with hedge balls, building forts with sticks and stones.
  • Cranking ice cream, catching fireflies, listening for the coyotes.
  • Riding on the tractor, smelling the harvest, resting in the cool grass.

Are any of these on your list? What are a few of your favorite things?

Photo credit: JamesWatkins / Foter / CC BY